Recovering unfired primed cases for re-use

What do you do to recover and re-use primers and cases from unfired cartridges, a situation that almost always develops during load development when you’ve reached maximum pressure before using all the you loads you’ve prepared? 

When this happens during load development, it may leave you with up to 10 cartridges that need to be unloaded, but if you’ve simply got no use for a previously developed load you could have a lot of value tied up in a large batch of cartridges.

Brass recovery
The primer on the left shows signs of healthy pressure. The one in the middle shows higher pressure. You’ll want to recover all the unfired cases that would exceed the pressure threshold

In this day and age of shortages, particularly with primers, there is a need to save unfired primed brass to be used in other loads. 

The loads are initially disassembled with an impact projectile puller that will remove the projectile and contain the powder within. 

It is my preference not to return this powder to its original container. The reason is simply that mistakes are made, and you could end up contaminating a larger volume. 

I much prefer to contain the recovered powder in another isolated container, label it, and use it again when appropriate. 

The projectiles are, of course, in prime condition and able to be reloaded again.

We are now left with the case and associated primer. What follows depends on whether the original loads were assembled with either a normal two-die set or a set of straight-line dies. 

If a two-die set was used, unscrew the central spindle and remove the de-capping pin from the sizing section. Screw it back together again without the de-capping pin. 

Ammunition reloading
A straight line die (left) and the de-capping die of normal two-die set

We now need some form of dry lubrication, and graphite is ideal.

Use graphite both inside and outside the neck, and then run the case into the die in the normal manner; this will resize the neck of the case and leave the primer intact. 

The case can then be stored in the normal manner until it is required to be reloaded again. 

Make a note of the primer used.

If the original loads were assembled using straight-line dies, just apply graphite on the outside of the case necks and resize in the normal manner. If you normally run the necks over a specific size mandrel to expand them, now is the time to do so. Job complete! 

Graphite dry neck lubrication

All of the above may seem like a lot of time and effort, but with primers specifically, we need to use them carefully and ensure minimum waste.

The other issue that will go a long way towards stopping waste is adequate research before you reload your test cases. 

This will eliminate several unsuitable loads before you even start. The same applies to the projectile to be used.




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Ron James